Tag Archives: skeptic

Illegal Drugs In Your Skeptical Toolbox?

In my experience with skepticism, there seems to be a cultural reluctance to utilize drug experiences when dealing with issues of the mind and perception. I am going to focus on the stigma of illegal drugs and their users. Also provide examples of the perception of the drug and use as a skeptical tool.
Users:
The image of the ‘junkie’ in popular culture is a prevalent stereotype of most hard drug users. This strawman does exist, especially when it comes to highly addictive stimulants or depressants. The depiction of a morally stripped, drug zombie capable of killing on a whim is definitely a small minority and the more sympathetic and sad character of a person who’s brain chemistry has been hijacked is maybe a larger percentage but still not the whole.  The dichotomy of these views are missing the great ‘middle class’ of heavy addictive drugs that navigate the extremes. The hallucinogenic drugs enjoy a more moderate view as having ‘recreational’ users and is becoming more mainstream with the recent changing laws and attitudes. Unfortunately, the alternative perception attained, from these drugs, convince the credulous mind that their experiences are ‘real’ and therefore special and outside of the known world of non users.
Stimulates:
Our society has a strange acceptance of stimulates when deemed legal or socially acceptable. Caffeine is readily  consumed and celebrated while at the other extreme methamphetamine is shunned and stigmatized. Now I am not trying to equivocate them as the same. Simply caffeine is safe to use daily and methamphetamine is not. This kind of scale is useful to skeptics when explaining how a new unregulated herbal supplement is affecting ones health. By using the studied know negative effects of these drugs to draw parallels with the seemingly innocent supplement. (Anyone remember the Effedrine abuse in the late 90s?)
Depressant/Pain Killer:
While sharing many similar addictive traits with stimulants, pain management and mind states resembling partial awareness really address motivation and bias that could be generated from physical states but expressed in their choices. (Nirvanas Kurt Cobain’s back pain became a severe heroin addiction.)
Hallucinogens:
The claims of receiving ‘knowledge’ and ‘enlightenment’ seem to come mostly from the hallucinogen category. Many ‘experiences’ of altered perceptions do provide a skeptic with tools to understand our flawed perception of events and memories.  Many of these drugs effect our fact checking and stimulate or suppress parts of our brains that help construct our reality. When claims of strong emotional responses or sensations are put forth as evidence, many similar experiences has been replicated through these drugs. Claims of Near Death Experiences, false memories, and all sorts of emotional and physical responses from Psychics and false medicine can draw parallels with the known to be false sensations through these drugs.
Conclusion:
While this is not an endorsement to take drugs (or not to, it is a moot point to me but I would suggest googling Sam Harris on drug use for an in depth read on the subject) to understand how they can be used to further skepticism. It is a plea to understand the wealth of knowledge and data that can truly be used when fighting pseudoscience and our flawed perceptions.

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Belief Equality Dichotomy

I have noticed a common response to criticism, of  belief systems of a  religious, philosophical or ideological origin,  is to assert  that the beliefs is equal to or just as valued as any other type  and is therefore protected from scrutiny.

Protection: 

Advocating protection of the belief systems will ensure a more peaceful and non intrusive society to live in. Beliefs themselves do not harm people, harm is the responsibility of the individual carrying it out. Extreme beliefs are just that, extreme and cannot be used to criticize similar or connected views. Attacking beliefs causes offence. Tolerance is only achieved though respecting ones beliefs. Intolerance of beliefs equals intolerance of said person. A persons beliefs are personal and therefore cannot be criticized without harm to the person. Challenging ones beliefs usually entrenches them deeper  into it.

Criticism:

It is possible to examine ones beliefs without attacking the person. Beliefs influence a persons bias and actions when interacting with others. A persons beliefs can be objectively judged as harmful. Respect is reserved for a people but not always their beliefs.  Dogmatic following of  beliefs, without evidence stunts personal growth. Challenging a person or group beliefs may cause others in society to examine their own.  Having a personal belief does not protect one from being criticized for partaking in a negative action.

Opinion:

I personally am a strong proponent of challenging religious, philosophical and ideological beliefs (including my own). If a belief is to be deemed valid, it is only fair to examine that belief as objectively as possible. Accepting a majority or tolerating an aggressive belief out of respect, is intellectually dishonest and only protects people with a unchallenged agenda that is enabled by our passivity. (an extreme example) Through critical thinking and debate, we have an open market for society to choose our values.  Instead of unchallenged and  uncritical acceptance of beliefs that, if were adopted, might take that right away or deem it unquestionable.


…Walks like a Duck Dynasty – Control/Privilege Dichotomy

     It seems not long ago that’s me and my wife (mostly me) started noticing Duck Dynasty swag everywhere.  Being from Missouri, I recognized the stereotypical, camo covered characters that I have dealt with (positively & negatively) for most of my life in the Midwest.  I, not watching the show, was guilty of lumping them in with other harmless reality shows. Being an avid ‘Cheaters’ fan at one time, who was I to judge?  After the ridiculous comments Phil made, still I was not too surprised at his fundamentalism.  The network reaction (a face saving maneuver) again typical and unsurprisingly proper to the (profit saving maneuver) thereafter.  Although the public’s response was definely a telling snapshot of our American culture.
Moderates in this discussion are intentionally (self evidently) excluded from this post. As most of us do, I would like to concentrate on the dichotomy between control and privilege.
Control:
Proponents of having Phil fired, socially shunned and possible litigious responsibilities see the larger issue as an intolerance/tolerance dichotomy.  In this view, this behavior is a threat to their cultural belief system that needs to be quelled swiftly and decisively. To project a social solidarity within our culture and a rejection of these dated ugly beliefs to the rest of the world.
Privilege:
Advocates for Phil’s right to express his beliefs, without consequence rely on the suppression/freedom dichotomy to express the promotion of their dogmatic base.  Value of a majority (though heavily varied) religious status excludes Phil of the responsibility or burden of socially unaccepted views.  Holding up the issue of free speech while suppressing the values and rights of the network as a business entity or of a minority entity within the same circumstances.
Conclusion:
Phil can express his, in my opinion, hateful intolerance until the proverbial ducks come home. Yet there are consequences for that action, much as I would be disciplined for a similar action.  We also need to realize that life is not fair (see Baseball players vs Social workers salary) and all things are not equal.  This said, drawn from this, is an example of assumed  privilege and ignorance that should be discussed and examined in our culture.  Heavy handed action is not the way to social progress.  Many times in our past, segregation and suffrage were violently suppressed partly due to it being socially unacceptable at the time. I advocate for open arguments on a rational, logical basis.  That includes unhindered scrutiny on the issue and in the arena of ideas we can truly come closer to the ideal of fairness.   Unfortunately, for Phil, dogma loses in that arena every time.

Didgya


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